Well…hello there!

Goodness me, long time no see!

Another busy week, including a meal out at friends’ on Monday, meeting another friend for drinks and nibbles on Thursday, then the “Office Party” yesterday. Plus trying to plan for the week’s work! And deliver lessons! Last weekend was taken up with Christmas preparations – it all got a bit on top of me, unfortunately – I think it’s partly as a result of the hormonetherapy tablets I suffer from heightened anxiety: stuff which wouldn’t have bothered me before now makes me worried. For example, coming back from Strasbourg, I had 15 minutes between trains. Lyon Part Dieu is a fairly small station, with a limited number of platforms (8, I think) so it takes 5 minutes at most to get from one end to the other. But I was getting more & more anxious about missing the connection during the journey from Strasbourg. In the end I was waiting for 10 minutes on the platform for the Roanne train!

Anyway, the sorting and wrapping of the presents, the getting ready to post them, the decorating the house, the writing of the letter…I got so wrapped up (hah!) in all this that I forgot why we do these things…to celebrate the coming of Emmanuel, Jesus, God with us. I needed to take some deep breaths and ask God to keep reminding me!

Eveything is sorted now. Presents posted (How much?!), emails & letters sent (no cards being sent this year), house decorated (happy I found an Advent candle bridge for 4€ in Noz!) and the Christmas play list is ready. We just need to think about our food – which won’t be too elaborate, I don’t think. We’ll probably go shopping for that together on Friday or Saturday (which might be a bit busy!!) although the smoked trout is already in the freezer as I saw a special offer last week.

The Church Carol Service is tomorrow – mulled wine & mince pies afterwards – Mr FD is going to come,which will be nice. Today I’m just going to chill, and enjoy starting to relax…Although I do need to tidy the study, as it looks like a bomb’s hit it! But it’s a bit overwhelming, so I’ll just sit and panic about doing it. (Yes, really…Sigh)

 

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Good times in Strasbourg

I had a lovely few days in Strasbourg, with my friend Jane.

The journey there was a little fraught – although as I didn’t have any connections to make I wasn’t too anxious. We were on the last leg of the journey, about 20 minutes outside Strasbourg, when the train ground to a halt. After about 5 minutes the guard announced that we had hit a deer, and so had to wait for clearance to restart. Also, one assumes, for someone to clear up the debris. We were held up for about 30 minutes, during which time I texted Jane, to keep her up to date with what was happening. Finally we started off again, only to come to another abrupt halt about 10 minutes outside Strasbourg. This time, the guard told us with a weary sigh, there were children playing on the line, and a pram abandoned in our path. I suspect it was more likely to be yoofs dropping things onto the track from a bridge, but I don’t know for sure. That clear up took another 45 minutes or so – we arrived in Strasbourg about 90 minutes late. Jane had come from the flat to meet me, so we were able to have something to eat near the station, before taking a taxi back.

The first (but not the last!) mulled wine!

On Sunday we had planned to go to church, but ended up not going! We woke late and had a leisurely breakfast instead. Then we went to explore the Christmas markets… There were, after all, eleven to explore! Initially we were a little disappointed. They were either a bit too Chinese imported tat, or what was a small number of wooden chalets had been bigged up to be a “Christmas Market” However, as our time went by, we found ourselves being a little more forgiving; some weren’t much to write home about though. The “Off” market was supposed to be edgy and alternative, but was just a bit boring and unfestive. There were four or five containers with a couple of interesting stalls, plus some igloo type structures with some bits and bobs, but nothing terribly out there.

Still, while there were rather too many stalls selling Vin Chaud and baguettes with cheese and ham, we had a lovely time!

By sheer coincidence we were in the Place Kléber when the huge tree lit up – very festive! Especially when watched clutching a Vin Chaud!The market here was a little disappointing too – this was supposed to be the “ethical” market. The description told us that “Some one hundred support, charity and humanitarian associations invite you to come and meet them, discuss what drives them and share their solidarity actions at the Village of Sharing in Place Kléber, from 23 November to 24 December” What it doesn’t say is that these 100 or so associations were sharing approximately 10 chalets on a rolling programme, so there were only 10 different groups at any one time – most of them selling Vin Chaud! We did buy some “Humanitarian soup” (parsnip with ginger and lemongrass) which was good,and Facebook had a stand where they were showing their human face: encouraging us to make a donation to a charitable cause through FB, they were offering a free Christmas sweatshirt for every donation made. Well, as I needed a Christmas jumper for our works Christmas party, but was refusing to buy one, this seemed like an ideal opportunity! I wanted to support Phone Cedit for Refugees, but they don’t have a FB page, so instead I gave a donation to Restos du Coeur, and received a Christmas sweatshirt,a bag, a FB pin, a pair of gloves and a handwarmer!

Some of the decorations were amazing, and the stalls were beautifully decked out too

Our favourite market was in the Place Broglie, which is where we made many of our purchases. It was here we also met Denis, the treasurer of the Convocation of the Episcopal Church in Europe, who lives in Strasbourg. He had offered to take us to taste the “best gluhwein in the markets” so (naturally!) we took him up on the offer. The Vin Chaud was at the stall Chez Mathilde and was, apparently, an old family recipe. It was delicious – the spices used included cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and cardomom. Then Denis took us on a whirlwind tour of the markets (showing us one we’d missed) and ended up buying us a beer in an old fashioned beer kellar/pub type place. We let him go home after thyat (it was raining hard by then) and we wandered around the market a bit longer before heading home ourselves. My back had been playing up both Sunday and Monday,  generally being painful, but also occasionally going into spasm, so I was happy to take the tram home!

Random twinkly lights

We also did some sightseeing, but I’ll tell you aboutthat another time.

Blue arsed flies.

For those who don’t quite understand the metaphor:: Run around is a common expression meaning to be busy, frantic, or otherwise getting the runaround. But to emphasize how much one is running around, we turn to metaphor. I’ve been running around like a blue arsed fly. The fly in question is apparently a blue bottle fly, which buzzes around rather frantically, like someone who is running around busily doing errands.

Golly gosh! I’ve been busy – still am!! Some good things:

  • My calligraphy course went very well – no-one turned up, so I sat & chatted to Martine, the organiser, for anhour then presented my bill, and came home to do my ironing. Hopefully, I’ll get paid the full amount.
  • SNCF have refunded the cost of the initial ticket, that I couldn’t use, from my horrible journey home from convention. I’m still a bit out of pocket, but we’ll accept that.
  • Mr FD has several interviews/job fairs to go to in the next couple of weeks (fingers crossed) and I’m getting more work too. The Financial Monster is being kept at bay, thanks to the geneerosity of mothers, and some frugality on our part. Plus a transfer of funds from the UK!
  • I’m going here on Saturday for 5 days!

STRASBOURG CHRISTMAS MARKET

Yay! Huzzah! and other cries of glee.

Less nice, but exciting and interesting news:

  • I resigned from the Transition Committee  for the Bishop Elect. My new medication (hormone therapy) does have a side efect of increased anxiety, and I was finding myself getting really stressed, even just over the Zoom meetings (like Skype) It was doing me no good, so I resigned, deciding that I needed just to focus on Church here in Clermont.
  • However, here in Clermont, Father Rob and his wife Caireen are moving on. They are off to Rome, and we are looking for a new rector. We may need to be creative – possibly a part time rector, possibly something else…Happily the new Bishop Elect is interested in and knowledgable in bi-vocational work. Until someone is appointed I will probably be preaching more/taking more services, and we’ll be having various ordained people visiting so we can have the Eucharist.
  • I’m now on the Strategic Planning Committee – but it is focussing on church here in Clermont!! – as we start to think about what Christ Church in Clermont Ferrand will evolve into. It’s sad that we are losing two well-loved people, but it is exciting to l;ook ahead to what we may become, and what God’s plans are for us.

And off I buzz again – need to have lunch before leaving to go to Clermont to teach.

 

Hope all is well with you, dear Ones. I am thinking about my Things to do Before I’m 60 list. I may publish it at the beginning of January – 10 Things in the 10 months before I’m 60. That seems like a reasonable number of things. Thank you for your ideas – keep them coming!

Stuff happening…busy,busy!

Really short post with explanation why I won’t be around for the next week or so…Lots of reasons.

  1. I have shingles (that’s what my painful “trapped nerve” shoulder was all about) – which means I’ve been tired, I’ve taken a couple of days off, & haven’t planned for next week’s lessons yet. It needs to be done. Thankfully, I’m not in a huge amount of pain, as it was caught early: I have painkillers & anti-viral drugs. What it doers mean is that I can’t lie down without a lot of pain, so I’m sleeping on the sofa at night. It’s OK, but it’s not my bed!
  2. It’s the Church Thanksgiving Meal tomorrow – I have to prepare spiced red cabbage and a peach-and-apple crumb cake. I’ll be out most of the day.
  3. I haven’t inputted last week’s lessons into the ILS System. Nor have I inputted next week’s. It takes time.
  4. I have been asked to write a reflection for next year’s 40 Acts!!! How exciting! I’m honoured too – I thought it was only proper Christians who did these things! That needs to be done in the relatively near future.
  5. I’m teaching a calligraphy course next Saturday. I have done NO preparation whatsoever.
  6. I have been given a date for my interview for my Titre de Sejour – on Wednesday!!!! I have to collect a few (but not too many) documents together. I’m already getting nervous! TBH they have been really efficient (excuse me while I faint!) about this – I sent off my initial request in August, got asked for certain documents beginning of September, got a phone call two weeks ago asking for certain other documents which I dropped off the following day, and today I received notification of my Rdv on Wednesday!! Let’s hope it goes smoothly.

So – no time for blogging. Sorry! I won’t have time to reply to your comments either, but I do appreciate them & will reply when next week is over!

PS Thanks for your suggestions on my Challenges before 60. There are some great ideas.  Do please keep them coming!

Food highlights…

Actually, there haven’t been any particular highlights this week – the Chinese pork was OK, but nothing special.

I think the Feta stuffed chicken was the nicest (this is the correct recipe – I linked to the wrong one in an earlier post) but next time I’ll make the pepper sauce in a different way. It was too watery made like the recipe suggests. Tinned tomatoes, marinaded peppers and some harissa would be better than using stock, I think.

I was lucky enough to get another 1€ Lidl box – this one had about 10 packs of mange touts. A lot were too brown-spotted, but we got the equivalent of about 5 packets of good ones. That’s 1.25kg, which were blanched and frozen. There were also 1.5kg of mushrooms, all perfectly fine, which were sliced and frozen (some cooked, some raw), and 4 wrinkly parsnips. There was also a completely rotten celeriac and an unusable lettuce, but still it was worth the 1€ and a bit of extra work. Parsnips will probably go in soup at the weekend.

I’m looking forward to trying this recipe tomorrow: Stove top pulled pork, with coleslaw, and sweet potato wedges. My slow cooker died a death last winter, so I don’t have the convenience of that – we will get another, but just not yet. This recipe seems to give the delight that is pulled pork, without the slow cooker experience. We shall see.

Pages of the Sea 1918-2018

I know I’ve already posted one Remembrance Day post but I thought that there might be overseas readers – and some UK readers too – who might be interested to read more about one particular act of rememebrance taking place today – or rather series of acts of remembrance.

The film director Danny Boyle has created a series of events around Britain called “Pages of the Sea”. On 32 beaches, in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, images of 32 ordinary, and not-so-ordinary, people who were casualties of the First World War will be drawn onto the sand, and then the tide will wash these images away.

Boyle says: “Beaches are truly public spaces, where nobody rules other than the tide. They seem the perfect place to gather and say a final goodbye and thank you to those whose lives were taken or forever changed by the First World War. I’m inviting people to watch as the faces of the fallen are etched in the sand, and for communities to come together to remember the sacrifices that were made.”

This will be a unique moment to say goodbye and thank you, together, to the millions of men and women who left their shores during the war, many never to return.

For example,this is Driver Stephen Hewitt (25 October 1878 – 30 August 1916) to be commemmorated at Brancaster beach, Norfolk.

Stephen Hewitt was born in Halvergate, Norfolk, to Christina Elizabeth Tower Harper and Isaac Christmas Hewitt. In 1899, aged 20, he married Louisa Caroline Catt.By 1916, Hewitt had joined the Royal Field Artillery as a driver, trained in the management and use of horses. He served in the Salonika campaign as part of a multinational force in the Balkans fighting the Bulgarians and their allies. In the spring of that year, British and other troops advanced from the Greek port of the same name, despite facing the region’s harsh climate and being struck down by diseases such as malaria and dysentery. Another hazard in the hills were these men fought were packs of wolves. Stephen was out riding when he was attacked by such beasts, dying from his wounds

Among the other people to be remembered are

John Basil Armitage, Cheshire Regiment, Age: 41 Date of Death: 17/05/1917 (Formby Beach, near Liverpool)

Kulbir Thapa, 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles Date of Death: 03/10/1956 (Lyme Regis beach)

Richard Davies  Date of Death: 25/03/1917) (Ynyslas beach, Ceredigion)

Dorothy Mary Watson Date of Death: 31/07/1917 (Swansea beach)

Wilfred Edward Salter Owen, M.c. Manchester Regiment Date of Death: 04/11/1918 (Folkestone beach) – perhaps one of the “less ordinary” people to be commemmorated, Wilfred Owen wrote some of the most powerful, moving and angry poetry of WW1.

You can find out about all the people to be remembered at the website of Pages of the Sea If you click on each beach, you will find out who is being rememberted, and more about their details. I just picked a few at random.

I think this is a beautifully fleeting way to remember these, and all those others, who have given their lives throughout the ages. Whatever one’s view on war, I still think a pause for thought, for remembrance, for a determination that we will do our part to bring peace to our corner of the world, is never a bad thing.

And Carol Anne Duffy, our Poet Laureate has written a poem full of pity, and anger, and compassion, as powerful as those of the war poets:

The Wound in Time

It is the wound in Time. The century’s tides,
chanting their bitter psalms, cannot heal it.
Not the war to end all wars; death’s birthing place;
the earth nursing its ticking metal eggs, hatching
new carnage. But how could you know, brave
as belief as you boarded the boats, singing?
The end of God in the poisonous, shrapneled air.
Poetry gargling its own blood. We sense it was love
you gave your world for; the town squares silent,
awaiting their cenotaphs. What happened next?
War. And after that? War. And now? War. War.
History might as well be water, chastising this shore;
for we learn nothing from your endless sacrifice.
Your faces drowning in the pages of the sea.

Carol Ann Duffy, 2018

 Edited to add a link to a You Tube video about the event: